How to Reduce Friction in eCommerce

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How to Reduce Friction in eCommerce


When you’re an eCommerce professional, understanding your customers is critical. You want to develop customer personas, learn about their preferences and attitudes, and reduce Friction at various points in your process. For example, you want a seamless purchasing experience, but you also want to make returns and exchanges simple for your customers. 

Reducing Friction is an ongoing strategic priority, and the following are things to know. 

How to Reduce Friction in eCommerce

Understanding Friction
Understanding Friction

In eCommerce, Friction is anything that will disrupt the customer’s flow, discouraging or distracting them from purchasing. Consumers have extremely low attention spans and patience, and competitors are always waiting to take their business. A modern online consumer can find nearly any reason to leave your site if they don’t like the buying experience. 

Reducing Friction and having a good purchase experience is often the difference between an online retailer being a success or a failure. 

Generally, your customer’s journey starts with product awareness and ends with their purchase. Friction is descriptive of any point in that journey where customers experience resistance. 

It’s not possible to entirely get rid of Friction in transactions. Every business has Friction that’s unavoidable somewhere along the way. For example, you must get a customer’s shipping information before a purchase is complete, which can be seen as Friction. 

There are times when Friction can be a good thing. Taking too many barriers from the purchasing equation can open you to cybersecurity threats and fraud. Also, asking customers to verify certain information can make for a smoother overall transaction, even though it is technically Friction. Positive Friction is deliberate and sets reasonable limits that minimally impact the shopping experience, like requiring a complex password. 

So what about minimizing negative Friction?

Ways to Reduce Friction in the Buying Experience

Some of the general ways you can reduce Friction and optimize your purchasing experience include:

  • Remove obstacles from checkout. If you have a clunky experience, you can rapidly undo your hard work in convincing a customer to choose your products. Cut down on as many steps as possible while keeping checkout safe and secure. Keep everything organized intuitively. Ask only for the information you absolutely must have for the transaction. If you want additional information, ask for it after the purchase. 
  • Provide transparency into shipping. Customers want to know how much they’ll pay for shipping and how long they’ll wait to get their items, and they often want flexibility in their shipping options. You’re likelier to close sales with high-intent buyers by offering timeframes and multiple shipping options. 
  • Make sure your site is fast. Google uses site speed as a ranking signal, plus if your mobile page takes more than three seconds to load, research says 53% of people will leave. 
  • Along with shipping transparency, you should similarly be upfront and transparent with your fees and costs. Unexpected costs during checkout are a big reason customers bounce from your site. Customers don’t want to feel blindsided, or like they’re being unfairly charged. So communicate fees, taxes, and surcharges in the purchase experience as soon as possible. Some eCommerce businesses find that using real-time tax and shipping calculators works well to manage expectations and reduce unpleasant surprises. 
  • Provide flexibility in how people pay. Amazon Pay, installment plans, accepting multiple cards, and making third-party systems like PayPal available are all important parts of reducing Friction from the perspective of the modern shopper. 
  • Incentivize people to go through with a purchase. For example, offer a coupon or a free shipping special if someone abandons their cart. 
  • Automate your order flow and fraud review so that you can provide instant confirmation for orders. 
  • Don’t forget that Friction isn’t just in the purchase process. Your post-purchase experience is as important as shipping, fulfillment, delivery, and returns. These post-purchase points in the customer journey can damage perception as much as anything that happens pre-purchase, if not more. 
  • Personalize the customer experience through data collection. With data, you can provide personalized greetings and product recommendations that promote a long-term customer relationship by showing them you care about their business. 

Finally, don’t forget about the importance of catering to cross-device buyers. Ninety percent of shoppers switch between devices and screens to make a purchase, so if the journey stops when they do so, they will lose interest in buying from you. 

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